Home | Audio | DIY | Guitar | iPods | Music | Brain/Problem Solving | Links| Site Map

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

A Beginner's Guide to the iPod®

Ralph Graves

Dec 10, 2007

Of all the gadgets invented to make life more fun, the iPod® has to be one of the coolest. Boasting elegant styling and an intuitive interface, Apple's iPod classic and the other members of the iPod family are a delight to use. An iPod can be your portable jukebox, video player, movie theater, digital photo album, and hand-held game console all in one. What's more, its user-friendly companion program, iTunes®, seamlessly works with your iPod.

iTunes collage

But that doesn't mean that you won't have questions about your new iPod-enhanced life. Don't worry — Crutchfield Advisor is here to help. We've compiled lots of useful information, including answers to the most common questions customers ask us about Apple's signature MP3 player.

So read on — and learn something about your new best friend. [Note: Apple makes frequent updates to iPod and iTunes software, so refer to Apple's support site for answers to specific questions. These tips are meant as general guidelines only.]

Getting started with iTunes and your iPod

Excitement isn't the word. You've finally got your new iPod home and you're ready to rock. Fortunately, getting up and running is easy: just follow these simple steps:

Disconnecting your iPod from your computer

You may have noticed that, while it's connected to your computer, your iPod displays a stern message informing you that it doesn't wish to be disconnected. The reason? Disconnecting your iPod while files are being transferred can cause you to lose data. Just follow these steps to safely disconnect your iPod:

If connected to a Mac. . .

If connected to a Windows PC. . .

It's safe to disconnect your iPod when you can see its menus instead of the "Do not disconnect" message.

Listening to music on your iPod

Okay, so this one seems like a no-brainer, right? Actually, there are some useful iPod tricks you can learn to make listening simpler.

Just so there's no confusion, let's start with the basics:

Once you have all those functions down, you can get a little fancy. These features are a bit more advanced, but nearly as essential:

Updating playlists on your iPod

You know how you have different clothes for different occasions? You've got a business suit for work, sweats for the gym, a swimsuit, a party dress. Well, playlists let your iPod be your musical closet, holding a different soundtrack for every occasion or mood. Custom-tailor a playlist for driving, one for working out, one for parties — your iPod keeps them all right at your fingertips.

Like inpidual songs, playlists are transferred from your computer to your iPod. For some ideas on how to organize your music in iTunes check out our Crutchfield blog.

While the iTunes program lets you manipulate inpidual tracks to create playlists, the iPod does not allow you to directly modify playlists — the only exception is adding songs to an On-the-Go playlist.

If you navigate to your iPod's Playlists menu and see one labeled "On the Go," follow these steps to add songs:

The Official Crutchfield Guide to Life with iPod

Repeat these steps until your On-the-Go playlist includes all the songs you want. Now your On-the-Go playlist will be transferred to iTunes the next time you connect your iPod to your computer.

If iTunes is set up to automatically update your iPod, the player will contain an exact duplicate of your iTunes music library, so as playlists are added to and deleted from iTunes, they will be automatically added to and deleted from your iPod as well.

If iTunes is set up to allow you to manually update your iPod, you can use iTunes to delete a playlist from your iPod:

Don't worry — deleting a song or playlist off your iPod does not delete it from iTunes.

Using multiple iPods with one computer

Many families have more than one iPod in the home, and some inpiduals own more than one player for different functions (an iPod shuffle for jogging; an iPod touch for commuting, and so on). Fortunately, it's possible to sync more than one iPod to the same computer.

Every iPod has a unique ID, so iTunes has no problem telling your player from your thirteen-year-old's. But there are some things you can do to make all your music transfers smooth and hassle-free:

Using one iPod with multiple computers

Chances are good that you've got a computer at home and one at work, both with iTunes. Or maybe you've got a couple of computers at home. Either way, if you want to sync your iPod to more than one computer, it's simple to do. Here are some tips:

Updating music manually

Many people find that their computer hard drive is the perfect place to store their entire music library — more than they could possibly fit onto their iPod. Others want to use their iPod with more than one computer — for instance, one at home and one at work. Still others simply want close control over the songs that get loaded onto their iPod.

If you're one of these people, you can set iTunes to let you hand-pick the music you transfer to your iPod. And manually managing your music is simple; just follow these steps.

When you manage your music manually, your iTunes music library and your iPod library are no longer identical. There are a couple of things to keep in mind:

If you ever want to switch back to automatically updating your iPod, just follow the steps above, selecting "Automatically update all songs and playlists" or "Automatically updated selected playlists," instead of "Manually manage songs and playlists." Just remember that automatic updating replaces the songs on your iPod with the songs in iTunes.

Viewing album art using iTunes and your iPod

With iTunes, music isn't just an auditory experience: it's visual as well. You can see cover art, or any still image file, while you listen to your music.

Songs that you purchase at the iTunes Music Store automatically come with cover artwork — you can see it by clicking the "Show or hide song artwork and video viewer" button on the left lower side of the iTunes window. For the rest of your music, just select "Get Album Artwork" under the iTunes' Advanced Menu. Album art will automatically be matched up and downloaded to your library.

Sometimes, though, album art may not be available (especially if you've imported tracks from out-of-print CDs). No problem. You can add your own artwork simply by dragging the photo you want to that same viewer box. You can even drag more than one photo to the box: the viewer displays one photo at a time, letting you scroll through them by clicking the right or left arrow. You can also see a larger version of the photo by clicking on it.

Naturally, iPods can display album artwork as well. Once you've loaded the artwork into iTunes, you simply configure iTunes to transfer the art to your iPod:

If you decide to turn off this option, don't worry — you won't lose images you've saved in iTunes and/or on your iPod.

The Official Crutchfield Guide to Life with iPod

Listening to podcasts

Maybe you've heard of "podcasting," the next generation on-demand broadcasting. If you haven't, you're missing out on exciting new audio and video programming you can't find on regular radio or TV.

What is a podcast?
A podcast is a recurring program that you can download from the Internet using iTunes. Almost all podcasts are available free of charge. It's called a "podcast" because, once it's on your computer, you can transfer it to your iPod just like a song. (You don't have to listen on your iPod, though — you can listen from your computer, if you prefer.)

iTunes Podcast store

There are programs to suit every taste, from humorous talk shows to cutting-edge music broadcasts. And an increasing number of video podcasts are becoming available as well. For more detailed information, see our article entitled Podcasting 101.

Downloading a podcast
It's easy to sample a podcast:

You can view and manage podcasts by clicking Podcasts from the iTunes Source menu. Click the Settings button to choose:

If you find a podcast online that isn't in the iTunes Music Store, you can subscribe to that, too. In iTunes, choose the Advanced menu, select Subscribe to Podcast, paste in the podcast's web address, and click OK.

Watching videos using iTunes and your iPod

Of course, iPods are more than just portable juke boxes. You can take TV shows, movies, and music videos with you wherever you go — shortening everything from car rides to cross-country flights in the process.

First things first: you should know that newer iPods can display MPEG-4 and MOV files, including videos and TV shows downloaded from the iTunes Music Store. You need to have iTunes 6 or later, though. If you need to update iTunes, head to Apple's web site and download the latest version.

The Official Crutchfield Guide to Life with iPod

Here's how to transfer and view video on your iPod:


Here are some more tips for using your iPod to enjoy videos:

Viewing photos using iTunes and your iPod

iPods make great high-tech "brag books" for showing off your kids, your friends, or your vacation pictures. Seeing photos on the iPod's screen is simple:

Here are some more tips for using your iPod to enjoy photos:

Listening to your iPod in the car

Once you get your iPod's songs and playlists the way you want them, you'll want to enjoy them everywhere, including while you drive. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to play your iPod through your car's radio. Check out our iPod Car Stereo Adapter Shopping Guide for details.

Five simple steps to an iPod RESCU

Whether your iPod holds your entire music library, or just provides the beats you need to power through a workout, a technical problem can cause you major stress. Don't fret — there are five easy potential fixes. Just try them one by one, until your iPod is working good as new.

Of course, you should first check to be sure your iPod's battery is charged. After that, toggle the Hold switch on and off. If you're still tuneless, you're ready for an iPod RESCU:

If these steps don't work, Apple's support site offers more information.

Problems playing music in iTunes

iTunes and your iPod are designed to work together seamlessly, and most of the time they do. But even with this dynamic duo, you may encounter the occasional hiccup when you're trying to listen to your music.

If you find that iTunes won't let you play a particular song, the cause probably has to do with "authorizing" that song to play on your computer. Authorizing is Apple's way of copy-protecting the songs that it sells via its iTunes Music Store. Here are a few tips:

Problems burning a CD using iTunes

iTunes makes it easy to burn a mix of your favorite tunes. If you're having trouble creating a CD, here are some helpful tidbits to keep in mind:

Home | Audio | DIY | Guitar | iPods | Music | Links | Brain and Problem Solving | Site Map | Contact


Creative Commons License